The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) came to the aid of Claire Hughes after she seriously injured her ankle falling on sheet ice.
Following her rescue, Claire signed up to the Regular Giving programme GNAAS offers along with raising funds for the charity.
She said: “Without their fast response, I could have lost my foot. It blows my mind that such a vital service is run as a charity and I want to do all I can to ensure they can continue to be there for others.
Back in 2021, Claire was out walking with her partner in Northumberland when she slipped, due to the snowy and icy conditions it would have taken a land ambulance three hours to reach her.
It was a freezing-cold day with wind-chill temperatures reaching -20°C, Claire was at severe risk of developing hypothermia and losing her foot, she needed to be treated urgently. GNAAS were tasked with the call-out and arrived on the scene within 40 minutes. The team faced challenging conditions while landing due to the strong winds and snow.
Claire’s partner, James Mackay, said: “The sound of the helicopter coming over the hilltops is a sound I’ll never forget.”
Both of the bones in Claire’s leg were broken and her ankle was pointing in the wrong direction. She had suffered a fracture dislocation which meant the foot had to be manipulated back into its normal position to protect its circulation and sensation which would then prevent any further damage, after which it was splinted to prevent any movement.
This intervention was done to help with the blood supply to the foot, if it had been left untreated, she could have lost her foot. This emergency treatment was delivered in a temporary survival shelter at the scene in order to give the patient some relief from the wind chill.
The regular donations we receive enable us to make sure we have the latest innovations in medical equipment, that our critical care team are fully trained to deal with any situation, and that our helicopter is fuelled up and ready to respond when needed.
Dr John Ferris, who was on board the helicopter, said that given the snowy conditions and the weather, there was “absolutely no way” a land ambulance could have reached her. Our regular givers make up 26% of our annual donations, they make a huge difference to the service we can offer. Without the support of our regular givers the outcome may have been very different for Claire.
After GNAAS reset her ankle, Claire was then airlifted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where she underwent surgery to treat breaks on the three main bones of her ankle.
“As well as undertaking fundraising through public speaking in return for donations to GNAAS, and various challenges, I wanted to make a regular commitment. As a monthly payment, it’s a manageable sum and just counts as my regular monthly outgoings. It’s easy to forget to make payments if I need to do it myself each month so a direct debit works really well instead.